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Thursday, September 12, 2024

National Honor Our LGBT Elders Day

May 16th is National Honor Our LGBT Elders Day. On this day, we recognize and celebrate the older adults whose activism and bravery have led to greater rights and acceptance for younger generations of LGBT+ individuals. While we celebrate the pioneers of the LGBT+ movement, this day is also a time to call attention to the continuing challenges of discrimination that the LGBT+ community faces.

At CMSS, our LGBT+ Program seeks to support LGBT+ older adults and allies by creating a safe space for community building and helping to connect older adults to available resources. In a recent LGBT+ program meeting, we asked participants what advice they had for younger LGBT+ individuals and allies or what they wish they had known when they were younger. The following themes emerged from our conversation.

Look for the Resources and Support

One participant suggested, that younger individuals should “be aware of what resources are available and seek them out.” They added, “Today there is so much more available than when we were coming out.” This thought sparked a conversation about the various local and national organizations that offer assistance and support.

For younger LGBT+ folks looking for helpful resources, we recommend looking into the following organizations and finding other options online and in your community.

  • PFLAG – The nation’s largest organization dedicated to supporting, educating, and advocating for LGBTQ+ people and those who love them.
  • The Trevor Project – This national organization works to end suicide among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning young people.
  • GLAAD – A non-profit LGBTQ advocacy organization, GLAAD is focused on cultural change to ensure fair, accurate, and inclusive representation to advance LGBTQ acceptance.

Use Tech as a Tool, but be Aware

Of course, the internet is an excellent tool for finding new information, resources, and opportunities, but as our program participants discussed its benefits, we also considered its downsides. While the internet can allow people worldwide   to connect, find community, and learn important information, it has also produced a rise in scams and frauds. Anyone of any age could fall for a scam or a fraud, which could result in lost funds, lost privacy, and real dangers to safety and well-being. As one program participant put it, “Be cautious on computers and apps; you can never really be sure who you are talking to and their motives.”

A Supportive Community is Essential

Our discussion kept returning to the difference that a supportive community can make in life. Finding family and friends who are accepting, respectful, and caring is so important, but building a community can take time. The older adults in our LGBT+ program advised that younger folks keep an optimistic outlook and believe that some individuals and communities are there to support and help them. Program participants also encourage young people to be themselves and be thoughtful about who they share their lives with, especially as they are first coming out. They said,

“Be thoughtful about who you come out to.”

“Create your chosen family and community (like we have done with the LGBT+ program).”

“No matter how bad things may seem, trust that there are people who care and will help.”

 “Just be yourself and surround yourself with friends and family who love and respect you.”

Thank you to all the LGBT+ Program participants for their input and insight on this LGBT Elders Day!

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